By BROOKE WANSER
After waiting for years to hear about a downtown Franklin project that’s been called the biggest in decades, Franklin residents now have their answer: it’s on.
Site leveling on the 10-block lot is slated to begin this month, discussions have begun with retail tenants, and a hotel partner is on board, developer and Franklin resident Roderick Heller said in a press conference on Wednesday morning. Heller and Harpeth Associates, LLC. chief operations officer Steve Bacon discussed the company’s plans to move forward with the Harpeth Square project that has sat dormant for months after initial approval was given by the City of Franklin in May of 2015.
Heller said he recently told someone of the project, “It’s a vision, but not a dream, because a dream sometimes has an air of unreality.”
Construction was originally slated to begin in January of 2017, but was pushed back due to difficulty acquiring almost a city block of lots and getting approval from the city. Now, construction on the parking garage is slated to begin in November, with hotel and apartment construction set to begin in January of 2018.
Heller, a former corporate lawyer in Washington, D.C. who is the great-great-grandson of Carrie McGavock, mistress of Carnton Plantation during the Civil War, assured the group that the project was not of a corporate nature.
“We’re not Wall Street backed, we’re not institutionally backed,” he said, referring to a “very sophisticated group” of investors.
Heller said one-third of the investors are from Franklin, another third from Nashville, and the rest located elsewhere.
The property will include a hotel, “The Harpeth,” a franchise of Hilton’s new, luxury boutique “Curio” brand, along with 150 luxury apartment units, a 597-space parking garage and spaces for retail and offices.
“Our objective has always been to have a project that 50 years from now, people would say, ‘They did it right’,” Heller said of the $105 million project.
Matt Gray, a Michelin-starred chef working with Valor Hospitality, will oversee the one of the two dining options inside the hotel.
Mike Hathaway is the design architect leading 906 Studio Architects, while the project’s plumbing and electrical engineering are being completed by Genesis; both are located in Franklin. The architect of record is Smith Gee and the contractor is R.C. Mathews Contractor, both in Nashville.
“It’s been a Franklin-centric project,” said Heller.
Joel Tomlin, the owner of Landmark Booksellers next door to the development site, said he supports the project but is concerned the about the relative height of the project compared with the rest of downtown. “Franklin needs what they’re doing, but my problem has always been the height with it,” he said. “We desperately need hotel rooms,” he continued, but said he was worried it would look like “Nashville Convention Center.”